The Sound Side

daniel2Every year we go to the Outer Banks, a barrier island off the east coast. Our house’s worth is measured by its distance from the ocean as in oceanfront, ocean view, one block away, two blocks away, etc.  I never tire of the sudden sight of the magnificent ocean as we climb the steps over the dunes, and there it is. The wind picks up and the sound of the waves is volumes louder just as we make our way over the dunes. Families litter the beach staking their claim for the day with beach tents, chairs and umbrellas, and sand castles. This year we brought my dog and stayed in a little house on the sound side that allows pets, many blocks away from the beach. The house wasn’t much but the beauty of the sound in my backyard took my breath away. In all the times we visited this area, I’d never come to look at the sound. It took the love of my furry little friend to force me to turn my attention from the magnificence of the ocean to see the quiet beauty of the sound. Love will do that to us. Love opens us up to new experiences and possibilities we may not have otherwise considered. It reveals the deep and hidden things we never saw before. When I think of love, I think of God because God is love and the most beautiful, deep and hidden thing He has revealed is His son Jesus Christ. In Him is the fullness of God’s love for us.

Advertisements

A Little Oil and A Little Faith

“I never fry with oil. I use broth or a little water.” My girlfriend recently declared war against her bathroom scale and her growing wardrobe, growing in size that is, from an 8 to a 12. She had it with the disappointing reflection in her mirror, with her decreasing health and declining feeling of wellbeing, and she was sharing with me one of her secrets to her success: no more oil.

Imagine a tablespoon of oil. Now imagine a tablespoon of oil in a fry pan and compare it to the amount we really use. Imagine a tablespoon of salad dressing. Now compare that to the amount we use on our salads. Most likely what we actually use is more like two tablespoons, maybe even three. Oil is calorie dense and one of the most likely contributors to our increasing weight gain. Get rid of the oil and lose weight, gain health, and feel better.

Cuisines across all nations use oil. I recently experimented with a cookie recipe using teff flour, a North African cereal grain, and a half a cup of oil, among other ingredients. I just wanted the benefit of the calcium in the teff flour so I left out the sugar but I never considered the oil. The recipe turned out nicely and I started eating it for breakfast. After a few days, I noticed I had gained weight and, knowing the only thing I changed in my diet was the teff flour recipe, I realized that the oil in it was the most likely culprit.

Like salt, oil can enhance the flavors in a recipe. Oil is also one of the tools used to enhance the flavors in processed foods. The more oil, the more taste and the more fat. Dr. Furhman has a neat little diagram of a stomach filled with 400 calories of oil compared with 400 calories of greens and vegetables. The difference is striking as the stomach is quite empty on 400 calories of oil, while quite full with 400 calories of vegetables. The point is that we are still hungry after eating 400 calories of oil because our stomach are still empty, while they are completely full after eating 400 calories of greens and vegetables.

Oil is rich and eating fried or oil-laden foods causes us to overeat. Too much of this type of eating can sicken us, give us stomach aches, and over a period of a lifetime, create some pretty serious illnesses for our heart and arteries. Oil is fat and though some are more healthful than others, a little oil goes a long way. Think one tablespoon; not three.

A little faith can go a long way too. Faith, like oil, enhances the flavors in life. But how do we begin to have faith in our scientific world? People often scoff at religion for its fairytale-like stories of miracles and heaven where angels sing in the clouds. How do we take the historical Jesus seriously? Just wondering if he really existed has stumped some folks. However, virtually all historians agree that he did exist. The historical events in the New Testament line up with other historical texts, and references to Jesus can be found in texts other than the Bible. Making the assumption that Jesus actually lived is not much of a leap. A lot of experts agree that he did walk the earth once upon a time.

But what a walk. Accounts of Jesus in the Bible have him walking on water, feeding thousands with only a couple of loaves of bread and two fish, and even raising people from the dead. And healing? It seems like that’s all Jesus did wherever he went. Is believing all that accredited to faith?

I’d say faith begins with believing that Jesus lived and then died specifically as a sacrifice for sinful man. That’s not much of a leap either since crucifixion in Roman times was a common punishment for crimes, and in Jesus’ case, for blasphemy–claiming to be God.

So imagine Jesus who was a good man by anyone’s standards, letting himself be punished for crimes he did not commit, the crime of hatred toward him, and declaring right up to the end that he was dying for the very folks who were killing him. Now imagine Jesus embodied the soul of God who willingly endured a physically cruel and ultimately fatal punishment to save us from an equally cruel and fatal spiritual punishment so that He could love us forever, even while we were hating him. Going from the first image to the second is the first leap of faith, a fairly large one because it requires the acknowledgement that we are prone to evil and deserve punishment.

The belief that the historical death of Jesus met all the requirements for God’s justice against the evil in this world will flavor our lives with joy and comfort because we can approach God in peace and speak to Him as our own dear Father. Acting out that tiny bit of faith does enormous things to our lives, but getting there requires a good look in the mirror.

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Romans 5:10-11

Trusting Food and God

Did you ever get on the scale and find some unaccounted for, extra pounds? Where did the extra weight come from? Or have you eaten sparingly for a few days without any indication from the scale? Trying to lose a few pounds or stay at a steady weight can be baffling.

Weight gains from a heavy day of eating can be delayed and show up a few days later. We get by the first day but the next day we don’t even notice that we are eating more. Our bodies quickly adjust to the added calories. A few days of this and wham, reality hits the scale with an extra five pounds.

Returning to a healthful diet can take some time before we see a reduction in our body weight.  Replacing meals of animal meats and fried vegetables like french fries with beans, greens, and steamed vegetables creates a lot more fiber that can build up for a few days before we see any weight loss. This takes patience. It takes trusting in healthy food again.

It is also good to remember that just as our bodies will quickly adjust to added calories, we also quickly adjust to fewer calories. As we replace high calorie, low nutrient food with high nutrient, low-calorie food for a few days, we may feel uncomfortably full. This is because we can fill our stomach with high nutrient foods like beans and greens, vegetables and fruits and still have eaten only a fraction as many calories than if we had filled our stomachs with animal fats and oils. Meats, chicken and oils are very dense low nutrient foods and are much healthier for us if eaten sparingly. Meanwhile, the lighter foods like kale, spinach, cauliflower, broccoli and the myriad of other vegetables, should be eaten in much greater quantities as the main dish of every meal.

Doing good works and extending kindness can be just as baffling when the response we get is not what we expected, or we get it “too little; too late”. People can fail us. Our spouses, our children, and our friends can sometimes seem cold and indifferent when we extend kindness and good deeds towards them.  Life can become disheartening and unfair. It can make us angry, cynical or prideful.

Thank God for Jesus Christ who died that we might be forgiven by God for our constant fickleness. Jesus did much for us but what did we do for him? For all his kindness and good works, we hung him on a cross, scorned him, and mocked him. Luckily, he did not put his faith in men but in God, and so should we. If we dedicate our good works to Him, He is faithful, and He will make all things work for the good of those who love Him regardless of the actions of others. Simple acts of kindness done in God’s name are never fruitless.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.–Matthew 6:21

Local or Organic – God or Jesus

"Organic trumps local," Maria Rodale, author of Organic Manifesto

“Organic trumps local,” Maria Rodale, author of Organic Manifesto

Local AND organic is best but if we have to choose, choose organic. Organic wins over local because conventionally grown food uses chemical pollutants in our own backyard. It is true that local food is fresher and contains more nutrients but a few more nutrients at the expense of our earth and ill-health from  the chemicals used to produce local conventionally farmed food is hardly worth it.

Choosing organic helps the economy. Organic farmers do not receive US subsidies like conventional farmers do. Conventional farms can price their food lower because they are subsidized by tax dollars and outprice the organic farmer. Go to the food store and match the prices of organic food compared to conventional food and it is plain that organic costs more. By choosing organic, we are telling our government to stop subsidizing conventionally grown food. We do not need subsidies and it undermines our fair trade.

Choosing organic is healthier for the environment. Organic farming sequesters carbon dioxide, a green house gas affecting climate change, because it doesn’t use fungicides. Tiny fungi occur naturally in soil and acts as sponges to collect harmful carbon dioxide in the air, whereas conventional farmers spray their soil with fungicides, killing the tiny microorganisms that naturally soak up green house gasses.

Choosing to buy organic food uses less precious fuel sources than conventionally grown food. The chemicals conventional farmers use are made from petroleum and these chemicals use trucks to deliver their products to the farmer. Conventional farmers also spend a lot of time on tractors spraying chemicals, and that uses a lot of fuel.

When we choose conventionally grown food, we are choosing chemical farming, a practice that can be harmful to our soil and though we can gain higher crop yields, these high yield crops have smaller root systems and are more vulnerable to floods and droughts. Conventional farming produces poor soil water retention and the chemicals runoff this poor soil into our waterways, oceans, and wells.

When reviewing studies done by worldwide associations rather than US reports (which are funded by the chemical companies themselves), conventional farming and livestock production is responsible for a higher rate of green house gasses than even automobile emissions.

I believe that organic farming is the way to restore our earth, helping us to live at peace with nature rather than trying to control it with chemicals. I believe that conventional farming is also responsible for much of the hunger in the world today as grain from the US is subsidized and exported to places where local farmers are unable to match these low prices, and is putting farmers from those countries out of business or dependent on the practice of chemical farming. Chemical farming is expensive, making our chemical companies rich and the earth’s children poor.

Finding local organic food sources is like finding Jesus. Jesus is the best choice for us because by choosing Jesus we also choose God. God is Jesus. No one can choose Jesus without choosing God at the same time. Jesus is the physical embodiment of God who, through his sacrifice on the cross, gave to us God’s powerful spirit that resides within us when we accept the sacrifice He made for us. God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are all one, revealed by the Great I Am, also known as Yahweh, and Allah.

Jesus is the best choice because He is God’s choice, and fulfills God’s own plan to save us from death which naturally occurs to all of us. We are all on the same path and that path leads to death. C.S. Lewis likens Jesus to a new form of man, a new hybrid, so to speak, who dies but then rises up from death to eternal life. And like Jesus, we can follow His ways which promote our spiritual growth, both individually and as His church.

“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” –John 8:58

Food Happy and Joy in the Christian Walk

The God of Abraham is our Common Ground

The God of Abraham is our Common Ground

The other day I rode my bike to the grocery store in search of fresh nutritarian food: greens, brightly colored vegetables, fruits, and nuts. I was listening to Christian music on my iPod, praising Jesus Christ as I made way to the organic produce when I suddenly realized how very happy I was.  I was happy to be eating like this, and not buying conventional foods but food I truly believe is a powerful antidote to many diseases. I felt deep gratitude to Christ that He led me to the truth.

I’m not the only who knows the truth about food. In fact, the secrete to healthy eating is out: eat more fruits and vegetables and stay away from processed foods, sugary drinks, and dairy. White breads, white rice, and any other refined grain product (crackers, bagels, etc.) quickly turn to sugary poison in our bodies. Dr. Fuhrman prescribes a low whole grain diet, focusing mainly on a variety of greens and vegetables as the main food source because of their high nutrient value. His motto: The Salad is The Main Dish.

It saddens me that so many people continue eating the standard American Diet of pizza (white bread and sugary, salty tomato sauce with high fat cheese), hamburgers (mad cow disease is enough to keep me away but the bun and the ketchup are all sugar), and french fries (high fat, high starch that quickly turns to sugar and loads of salt)–just to name a few culprits. However, I know that SAD food is addictive and causes cravings and these cravings and addictions make us very unhappy in the long run, in fact, they make us sick. I know many people I love eat this way, in fact, most of them do.

Yesterday I was in the same grocery store (I go almost every day) and I bought the American Bible Society’s new magazine special “Messages from God: What the Bible Reveals to You.” I’m a sucker for stuff like that :). The Muslim clerk said to me, “Oh, so now you are going to start following God?”

It saddens me to know that many people continue on a path of righteous works thinking these will bring us eternal life. The way to God the Father is through Jesus Christ. We cannot work our way into heaven. I told the clerk, “I follow God everyday.” So he told me, “Do you know the Hindu religion has 82 gods?” I told him, “I follow Abraham’s God.” He said, “Allah, I do too.”

I live in a religiously diverse area. There are many Muslims here, Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists. With all the religious tension in the world today, many well-educated people are convinced that any religion is worthless, even worse, a detriment to society as a whole. Science cannot prove the existence of God, so therefore, there is no god. I don’t know how I was so lucky to find faith, but I have it and in it is great joy, an unexplainable joy, a joy that lives regardless of my circumstances.

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” I am set free from trying to earn my salvation: I have eternal life. I am an eternal being through my faith in Christ. I am free of many food addictions for which I also thank my Savior for leading me to that truth. I am on a journey and I know that even now, Jesus is trying to break me free of areas of slavery in my life. I cannot see what they are because my sin blinds me, but I call out to him in my darkness and, as a Sunday school friend said, He Leadeth Me.

Happy New Year Resolutions: Making each year better one year at a time

This year I resolve to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables because the larger the variety of these foods, the better. Combinations of vegetables like tomatoes and broccoli, garlic and onions, and greens with calcium rich foods are healthier than eating any of these separately. There are some specific health issues in my house that call for specific foods. For example, the cruciferous vegetables have strong anti-oxidant qualities that help fight cancer cells and tomatoes are good for heart health so we will be eating more of these.

A second resolution is to eat more beans rather than whole grains because they are good at reducing sugar levels in the blood–this is good news for diabetics. Cancer is fueled by sugar so it is good for me to stay away from it. Dr. Fuhrman’s recent blog encourages the eating of beans, legumes, and lentils over whole grain foods like brown rice and whole grain bread because beans are much more powerful at producing good health. In fact, a cup of beans a day improved health in just three months.

My third resolution is to drink three 4 oz cups of green tea each day. I am reading David Servan-Schreiber’s Anticancer: A new way of Life book. Drinking green tea can reduce my chance of recurrence by 50%.

I hope I can keep these three resolutions and stay away from sugar which is really hard for me. Transforming our diets from cancer-feeding to cancer-fighting requires a lot of change. The standard American diet (SAD) of fast foods, large quantities of protein from animal sources, and sugary staples like white rice and white bread (think pizza) will cause cancer and heart disease to soar in this country. When I first realized I had cancer I was amazed! I thought I was eating pretty well when in fact I was ill-informed and ignorant of some very basic nutritional information. Why? Because it is not taught in schools and in homes where convenience foods have taken the place of healthful meals. Even our government standards for healthful eating are swayed by economic and commercial self-interest. There is an incredible amount of misinformation out there and no one will find the real truth about what is good for their bodies unless they are willing to really investigate.

This is true of religion as well. There are many religions and many truths, many scriptures, and many prophets. Which one is true? Which one pleases God, if there even is a God. We will not know the truth unless we look for it.

Here is a reliable test for truth: The truth will set us free. Free from what, we might ask? Free from condemnation because if we really look at ourselves we will see that we fail to do good. Maybe we can keep up the good work for a short time but eventually all of us fall short of where we should be. To be human is to be flawed. We are not divine but there was one man who was: Jesus and he set us free from having to offer routine sacrifices for our shortcomings. Instead, he is the ultimate sacrifice and we are free to stumble and fall into His arms. He catches us and puts us on solid ground. He gives us a means by which we can transform ourselves, he gives us a truth to live by (the Bible), and he gives us comfort in knowing that he loves us enough to die for us to bring us eternal life.

We can change our diets. We can learn to eat healthfully in the new year. Through prayer and meditation, God can help us to live happy, healthful lives. He does not want us to be sick and overweight. Seek God, and you will find him. Put your life in his hands and let him help you transform your diet, your life, and your purpose this year. We don’t have to “clean up our acts” to come to him. He takes us as we are because he knows us even better than we know ourselves.

Merry Christmas: Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

treats

It is amazing that there are so many sugary, yummy, chocolaty treats at every turn in the day. Before I had cancer, I would not have hesitated to take a taste of each and every one. I was always careful not to eat too much but I would gladly trade my lunch for a couple of brownies and cookies at Christmas time. I’m more careful now.

But why shouldn’t I still eat what I want for these few celebratory days? So I do; my choices are just a little different. I have dried fruit, a whole pound of General Tso’s Vegan chicken at Whole foods, and today I am busy making stuffed onions with spinach with my daughter who is making stuffed mushrooms. She is a vegetarian and so we bought some dal burgers which I have never tried but I think will be great. For my two meat-eaters I bought grass fed rib eye stakes and a couple of organic Cornish hens–might as well buy as healthy a meat as possible for the very special men in my life. I have fallen prey to some treats and I will have the chocolate hazelnut torte for Christmas day dessert (oh, well!) but I still feel good about how much I have improved from past years.

My new sweet treat: Stuffed Sweet Potatoes. Bake a sweet potato, cut it in half, scoup out most of the potato part, add a tablespoon of coconut oil and a tablespoon of coconut manna and mash all together. Put the mash back into the potato skin, sprinkle with garam masala, and bake until warm (350)

God made a choice too. He chose to come to us as a small, delicate, baby born in a barn full of lambs. No doubt some of those lambs would ended up as sacrificial lambs, just like our Jesus. My daughter told me she was blown away by the immense humility of an all-powerful god being born as a helpless infant. Not only that, but the helpless infant would give up his life, a final blood sacrifice, so that we could have hope in this world. How precious is the story of Christ! Who could imagine such a lovely and grace-filled event? Even now, I cannot fully grasp what He did, what He does every day, and what He will do when we all are reunited with Him. But one thing I know: He is with us. God Bless you this Christmas Day!